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'He wants to be successful with everything he does' - Leyds on O'Gara mentality

BORDEAUX, FRANCE - Ronan O'Gara, Head Coach of La Rochelle talks with Dillyn Leyds prior the Heineken Cup Champions Cup semi final match between La Rochelle and Exeter Chiefs at Stade Matmut Atlantique on April 30, 2023 in Bordeaux, France. (Photo by Lionel Hahn/Getty Images)

La Rochelle winger Dillyn Leyds has opened up on what has given the back-to-back European champions the edge in the last few seasons, citing man management as a crucially important factor.


Leyds is back in Cape Town as the French team prepare to take on his former side, the Stormers, on Saturday.

Speaking to Behind the Ruck on what he puts the team’s success down to, Leyds spoke fondly of the former Ireland legend.

“A lot of credit has to go to Ronan O’Gara. When you speak about Ronan O’Gara the rugby player, you automatically think about his ambition, his desire, his want to win. He wants to be successful with everything he does.

“A training session, if he wants it to be that way, it has to go that way. [He’s] very focussed on detail. Then, you get the quality of players that we have, and when you get them to start believing in your process and the way you want things to work, and they buy into it, I think that’s a great recipe for success.


“We also have a very strong leadership group that is very hard on players in the group, but in a way that you take it because they’re being honest with you. ‘I don’t think your standards at training are good enough, you need to tidy it up’.

“With all of our coaches, the way they make you believe that there is no one better than you in the world. They have this ambition… When ROG came in it was just about, ‘Why do we want to be satisfied with just being here, when we know we’ve got the ability and capability to push on and be more?’.

“And that changed the club, it changed the mindset of the people working at the club. Not just coaches but backroom staff, in the office, it changed the mindset of the players. And I think that’s got a helluva lot to do with why over recent years, we’ve been successful.”


The former Springbok, capped 10 times, says that a focus on family is a huge part of what ROG brought to the club.


“ROG is big on family. Even at the start of the year we had a big welcoming, we had some new players, everyone had been away for a couple of weeks after the holidays, so at the start of the year he was the first one to say ‘Listen, we’re going to have a family day. Bring your kids, bring your wives, everyone’ and he spoke and said ‘Listen, this is how we do things at La Rochelle. This is what the club is about: You guys, the partners, as much as the players are the ones on the field, but you are the ones supporting them and making sure that whether they come home in a bad mood after a loss or whether they are in great spirits after a win, you are the ones seeing it all away from the field’.

“He knows how tough life can be when you’re in France, away from home, for us as foreigners. He knows when it’s time to say ‘look, we’re not going to play you this week, we don’t need you. Come to training on Monday and Tuesday but for the rest of the week, go away, if you want to go away with your wife, go with your kids Do whatever you want’.

“That really helps a lot, especially in the Top 14 when the season is so long and mentally draining, so you just need that time away when you can literally just not think about rugby, and be with your family.”

Following defeat to Leinster in round one, Leyds says that the team are very aware of how much trouble they will be in if they fail to beat the Stormers.

“It’s an exciting time for a lot of the boys to come to Cape Town for the first time, but lets not forget that we’re here to do a job too. If we go 0-2 then we make things pretty hard for ourselves. So this game is really important.

“We’re playing for our lives this weekend. As defending champs, we want to go out and show that last week was just a little bump in the road.

“A lot of the guys are excited about the fact that we’re going to be playing in dry weather too. Dry ball, give the ball some air, it’s going to be good.”

While the visitors come with a wealth of experience including the likes of France stars Jonathan Danty and Uini Atonio, the Stormers will have their Springboks back, with Damian Willemse and Manie Libbok in action, as well as Deon Fourie captaining the side from the flank.

The game kicks of at DHL Stadium in Cape Town at 14:00 local on Saturday 16 December.


15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Ben Loader, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Damian Willemse, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Hacjivah Dayimani, 6 Deon Fourie (captain), 5 Ruben van Heerden, 4 Adre Smith, 3 Neethling Fouche, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ali Vermaak.

Replacements: 16 Andre-Hugo Venter, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Brok Harris, 19 Connor Evans, 20 Ben-Jason Dixon, 21 Marcel Theunissen, 22 Paul de Wet, 23 Courtnall Skosan.

La Rochelle:

15 Brice Dulin, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Ulupano Seuteni, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Jules Favre, 10 Antoine Hastoy, 9 Tawerra Kerr-barlow, 8 Yoan Tanga, 7 Levani Botia, 6 Paul Boudehent, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Thomas Lavault, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Pierre Bourgarit (Cap), 1 Reda Wardi

Replacements: 16 Sacha Idoumi, 17 Joel Sclavi, 18 Georges-henri Colombe Reazel, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Rémi Picquette, 21 Judicaël Cancoriet, 22 Teddy Iribaren, 23 Hugo Reus.

Investec Champions Cup
21 - 20
La Rochelle
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